Necessary Evil by Ian Tregillis
Necessary Evil by Ian Tregillis provides a grand conclusion to the Milkweed Triptych. The concluding volume starts with a fascinating point of view from Gretel at age five as she is sold to the mad Doctor Westarp. You can find this for free here.
The echos and re-echos of previous volumes in this book and this book in the previous volumes show how the overall title of Triptych really is appropriate to this work as the story folds about itself morphing like a hexaflexagon imagined through a fever dream of Poe.
It is hard to get a story containing an oracle right but Tregillis totally pulls off this delicate balancing act in across three novels. The plans of the mad oracle Gretel as she strives to shape her fate, the fate of the world and of Raybould Marsh are a joy (and horror) to watch as they unfold. I’ve particularly liked the places where I didn’t even realize a plan was happening until later in the book or the next book the reason behind certain events becomes clear.
This exposure of cause and effect as it relates to Gretel in turn exposes issues of free will. Does free will exist where Gretel can foresee exactly what will happen if she changes some small detail? A very good question that is addressed in a clever, indirect fashion. Another good question that comes up is where the lines of good and evil should be drawn. What price should be paid to win a war against an implacable foe. Can the price of the blood of innocents paid to the Lovecraftian horrors of the Eidolons be balanced in combating the threat and evil of a twisted Doctor and his Nazi supermen?
If you haven’t read any of these volumes you really should and you will see what I am talking about. The world and characters are fascinating and the prose is really top-notch. If you have read the previous volumes then you will know that (vol 2 spoiler)
Marsh is sent back in time at the end of “The Coldest War“. The Marsh who is sent back is a highly damaged man–both physically and mentally. In this volume, it is up to this damaged man to address the fate of the world. He must deal with the demonic Eidolons and the Mad doctor’s warped supermen.